Sport 22: Autumn 1999
Louise White — Letter from Awaroa
There is time here Deb, it piles up
six hours between tides, seven
if it's a four point six. It has taken away
my silence, left me stranded.
Last night was perfect, calm water
the sky white with stars. Waiting
on the edge, I found myself searching
this whole appalling business, this
glaze of language that slides and obscures.
We talk of coming in and going out,
walk through mosaics shifting in sea
clear as a lizard's eye.
Last week Jorg barged a piano
up the inlet; notes
drift over the water
on the surface of our skin.
One evening on Sawmill Point I saw:
a light glowing in the sand, five people
on their knees, a garden sieve, a cardboard box.
They searched all night for the jawbone.
Did you know Deb, bones can be dated
by the state of the molars?
Between two kanakas a slice of sand
stretches into the bay, birds
mark the edge: oyster catchers, terns,
two lines on either side of a blank space,
a total sum of possibilities. I'm struggling
with the fine print Deb, I want to give you my view.
In another bay, on the other side
of the world, sand is raked
with lines, a woman lies.page 153
We'll go up the river tomorrow, Deb
to look for stones to build the wall
flat edged is best, and smooth. It's a case
of sizing them up one by one, the stones
need to lock together. You make decisions,
you build a history, you have to think
of the whole wall, Deb.
It's easy to offer liturgies of love here:
hoisted above the sea
washing over tomorrow's
to a small hotel in Chicago where
it is two o'clock in the morning and
the beer warm. This idiom runs and runs
and will not stop.
Last night I dreamed
of our grandmother, Deb
amber beads rose
and fell on my breast
three generations light.
In this landscape it would be easy
to lose language, others have—take
Fra Angelico—from his cell in San
Marco he brushed the gentle colours of
a Florentine evening onto plaster walls,
gave us a Christ not of this earth,
a pure presence in the pure space of faith.
Such faith Deb, there is so much to know,
we have too many words.
Words rise from this book beside me:
‘language not your own, unmastered,
struggled over, a strange combination of
distance and immediacy’.
Occasionally I travel back to the time
when the hills, and the hills behind the hills
held Ed, and I called through the night
in a voice muffled by mist and mothering
until, we heard on the back of the wind
that thin pipe of sound across the valley.
We've talked of this, Deb:
signals go unnoticed
it's not hard to lose your way.
The spring storm laid bare a midden at
Wharakiki Bay. Layers of our lives rest
so tightly one on top of the other, we
come up against earlier events in
later ones. The shell of the crab
protects its back and its belly.
Swallows lie under the eaves
of this house. The lens of the eye lies
behind the cornea, it is so small
no bigger than the point of this pencil, yet
a whole landscape has settled here;
each returning brings a faint
familiar shock, like a sootfall
in a chimney.
Under the pleats and pockets of these
hills, when the tide is full and the sun
lies in its lap, I journey to distant cities
to what might have been, until small
circles of everyday sound edge
across the water, and I am thankful
for this safe landing.page 157
Cold will come again:
last winter we walked on sand
white with frost. In Pittenweem
the sea freezes once a year,
boys skip school, skip stones,
a young girl edges further and further
over the wasteland.
Here I am, back in the
present after long weeks
in the past, my feet holding
firm at the mouth
of the river. Determination is
disconcerting in water so
visibly, so obviously
From expectation to reality
jet stream in a faultless sky
a pigeon head
a china bowl
at the China Club.
a seed in its beak.